In Guanacaste Province, a hop, skip, and jump from some of the area’s most popular beach destinations, you will come to the unassuming village of Potrero. At first glance, this rural beach community doesn’t portray much pizzazz. But, if you take the time to look deeper, you will discover a lovely and charming community that is situated very conveniently for exploring some of the best beaches Costa Rica has to offer. In this post, I want to give you an idea what to expect when you visit Potrero-including the area beaches that are a must visit.
The north of Guanacaste Province is made up of clusters of Pacific Coast towns. By far the most visited is the bustling city of Tamarindo. North of Tamarindo are other popular beach destinations-Playa Grande, Playa Conchal, Playa Brasilito, and Playa Flamingo. Just five minutes drive beyond Playa Flamingo is the last town of any size you’ll come to before coast gives way to jungle-Playa Potrero.
Georgraphically, Potrero very much feels like the end of the line. While there are popular destinations farther north such as Playa Hermosa, Playa del Coco, and The Papagayo, these are mostly cut off from Potrero by dense jungle. There is a recently paved road called Route 911, commonly known as “The Monkey Road” that connects them, but it is a narrow, slow and difficult passage that is prone to seasonal floods. The trip to Playa del Coco requires a stout 4X4 vehicle and ample provisions. This difficult to surmount geography to the north gives Potrero a sleepy, and quiet feel.
Potrero has two distinct areas. Coming from the south, you will first arrive in the neighborhood of Surfside. Surfside is a residential development that extends from the beach just slightly inland. Surfside consists both of vacation homes and year-round residences with a few businesses. This area is heavily settled by expats, but there are some Costa Rican natives in the area as well. The residences range from very high end vacation homes to more modest dwellings. The quiet streets of Surfside are close to the beach, and are amongst a tremendous number of Guanacaste trees. The most notable sounds are the waves breaking, and the calls of howler monkeys from the treetops. Nearby this development is the road that goes to Potrero Bay. As you drive in this direction, you will encounter shopping, restaurants, The Costa Rican Sailing Center, and a craft beer brewery.
If you continue north you will come to the older area of town in a matter of a few minutes. This area has more of a community feel, with smaller homes, a school, a church, a soccer field, small grocery stores and local restaurants known as sodas. This area is closer to Playa Penca and Playa Prieta.
The beaches are definitely the best reason to come to this area. Of course there is the main beach right in the town, but there are other nearby beaches worth a mention, and a visit. The Potrero Bay is flanked geographically by the southern point in Flamingo up to the Northern end of the village of Potrero by the soccer field. This bay is quite sheltered, which makes for calm waters that means the area lends itself well to swimming, kayaking, paddleboarding, and sailing-all of which are readily available. Playa Potrero proper is not the most scenic beach in the vicinity, but it remains a good place to spend a few hours since the area is not usually too busy. None of the local beaches have much shade, so be sure to pack plenty of sunscreen! One must spend an evening here for the wonderful sunsets…these are something that have to be experienced to be believed!
At the northern end of Potrero is Playa Penca. This beach is easily located by keeping an eye out for the sign on the left just past the soccer field. There is limited parking in a small parking area on the right as you come to Playa Penca, and a beach road continues along the coast. Playa Penca is known for its white sands and beautiful turquoise water that is quite clear. This area also mostly gets gentle waves which make it a great spot for swimming.
The next beach is Playa Prieta, which can be found on the other side of Playa Penca. This beach is a little bit harder to get to, and as such, is lesser known. There is a beach trail that allows you to walk from Playa Penca, or you can drive there via an unmarked side road. Upon arrival, you will conclude that Playa Prieta is worth the extra effort. This beach has ample shade trees, making it a wonderful beach to spend the day. The sand here is a gorgeous light tan, and the water is clear and good for swimming and boogie boarding. I highly recommend making the walk to the rocky point.
If you want to drive to Playa Prieta, follow the main road and signs for Las Catalinas after the soccor field in Potrero, After traveleing about six tenths of a mile, look for a left turnoff for Villas Estival. The road here is quite difficult and steep-but it will lead you to a small hotel and the public parking lot for Playa Prieta. This lot tends to fill quickly, so arrive early to get a good spot. A security guard is on hand to watch your vehicle for a reasonable tip. We do not recommend leaving valuable in your vehicle anywhere in Costa Rica.
Come for the beaches, stay for the hospitality, relaxed atmosphere and wonderful food. We would love for you to stay and eat with us at the Whiskey Howler on your next visit to Playa Potrero. Come see why Playa Potrero is the hidden gem of Guanacaste Province!